Museums & Metaphors

Francis Vanden Hoven - writer's blog


The Evolution of Aircraft

Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

A gem of a museum is nestled next to Hamilton's International Airport. Within a retrofitted hanger, over a dozen war planes stand wheels down. They are decommissioned naval and Royal Canadian Air Force veteran craft whose hulls still shine like a medals honoring past conflicts. One can't help but admire the visible evolution of these majestic metal birds forged in the flames of conflict. From propeller powered Lysanders to jet powered Avro fighters, it's a delight to see the craftsmanship up close. The highlight is a Lancaster bomber that recently flew to England to commemorate 75 years since its WWII tour of duty.
One can argue that this museum also marks the halting of jet fighter innovation when Diefenbaker killed off the Avro Aero fighter jet program, but then again, many who assisted in that aerospace engineering team promptly joined NASA. In Canada, Bombardier and a number of other aerospace companies still lead aircraft innovation today. Flight simulators, and a cool gift shop containing everything with wings provides any hobbyist with a model to take home. The afternoon was especially fun for my son who is fascinated by airplanes.

Snow Bird Trainer and Chipmunk Inside Snow Bird Trainer

The Dali’s garden of delights

Location: St. Petersburg, Florida

It’s rare that a museum gets a facelift. The Dali’s recent coif occurred just last year and now it’s spiral DNA stairs and it’s glass bubbles to the exterior are reminiscent of Buckminster-Fuller. This is all quite apropos for Dali had a love affair with science weaving his surreal magic into complex dualities and perception tricks that would make Escher smile. Oddly enough, the astounding masterworks and the post-post-modern architecture are equally balanced by the exterior gardens. It’s rare that a fully public exterior space compares to the offerings on the gallery walls, but The Dali carries it off with extraordinary panache. What can best be described as a surreal sculpture garden at the back of the building faces the beauty of St. Pete’s renewed and refreshed waterfront. A surreal dolphin welcomes all new comers as does a giant Dali moustache, a persistence of time and memory park bench and a face and foot bench. The effect is spot on and it captures the playful and magical quality that Dali aimed for in all his grand canvases. As a final touch, also much appreciated by my 18 month old son, a tree was transformed into a maypole as museum goers were encouraged to make a wish and wrap their armband on one of the strands. The Dali’s surreal garden stands as a monument to Dali and as a model to all museums looking to re-evaluate their landscaping. This is public space turned into a thoughtful, engaging garden of surreal delights.

dali staircase dali garden

Chagall at the AGO

Marc Chagall and the Russian Avante Garde is a must see show. It offers a glimpse into Chagall's career of over 80+ years as an artist. From the time when he was exiled Paris where he soaked in the impressionists and the rich palette of Van Gogh.

Van Gogh, Eh?

Van Gogh is coming to the National Gallery of Canada in a highly anticipated show. Van Gogh: Up close kicks off May 25, 2012 and it will feature forty works of the dutch master.

Maya Culpa

The ROM is guilty of putting on a tremendous show entitled Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World. After its great success with Terracotta Warriors and Water, the ROM delves into the ancient secrets of the Mayans. For more information visit